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Training Camp

Connor McDavid, Milan Lucic play together for Oilers

Form new top line with Jordan Eberle in preseason loss to Canucks

by Kevin Woodley / Correspondent

VANCOUVER -- The Edmonton Oilers' new top line didn't have any points in a 5-3 preseason loss to the Vancouver Cancuks on Wednesday, but Milan Lucic, Connor McDavid and Jordan Eberle showed plenty of promise in their debut together.

It was McDavid's first chance to play with Lucic, a left wing who signed with Edmonton as an unrestricted free agent July 1.

"[Lucic] opens so much ice and he's great on the forecheck, keeping pucks alive, so he's definitely a guy that is easy to play with," said McDavid, who rejoined the Oilers on Tuesday after playing for Team North America at the World Cup of Hockey 2016 in Toronto.

Lucic, McDavid and Eberle combined for seven shots on goal, and though held off the score sheet, they had enough good chances to suggest the line will be a good one for Edmonton this season.

"For the first time playing together, they looked dangerous in certain situations, had some good scoring chances," coach Todd McLellan said. "Once they get going, I think we'll have a dangerous line."

Eberle, a right wing who found chemistry with McDavid late last season, hit the post after a nice backdoor pass from the 19-year-old center left him staring at an empty net on a power play late in the first period.

There also were a couple great chances off rushes generated by McDavid's speed, including a nice cross-ice pass Lucic would have converted if not for a nice block by Canucks defenseman Erik Gudbranson, who was making his Vancouver debut after being acquired in a trade with the Florida Panthers on May 25.

But Eberle was most impressed by how the new line held on to the puck at times on the cycle, something he and McDavid had trouble doing last season.

"We definitely had some shifts where we controlled play in their end," Eberle said. "I think we need to find a way to get the puck in and around the net. With Lucic and his big body (6-foot-3, 233 pounds), he should open up space for us. Playing with Connor last year, we had a lot of success on the rush, and we created a lot of chances just with his speed.

"If we want to grow our game as a line, we need to find some ways to score on the cycle, get our D involved, and find ways to get some greasy goals. That's obviously what we're focused on doing and just finding some chemistry."

Lucic, a Vancouver native, did not speak with reporters following the game. After signing a seven-year, $42 million contract with the Oilers after one season with the Los Angeles Kings, he said the chance to play with McDavid, the No. 1 selection at the 2015 NHL Draft, was a factor in his decision.

McDavid, who had 16 goals and 32 assists in 45 games as a rookie last season, liked the potential of the new line after its first game together.

"We had our fair share of chances and definitely should have capitalized on a few of them," said McDavid, who had three shots on goal. "[Eberle] and I found some chemistry at the end of the year, I like playing with [Eberle] around the net."

McDavid said it was only a matter of time before the line starts converting the near misses it had Wednesday, including one Lucic batted out of the air just over the net after an aerial pass from McDavid from below the goal line.

"It's just experience and getting to know each other a little bit better," McDavid said. "We try to talk it out and figure all that stuff out, and it's just getting to know the guys a little more. Eberle and I already have a lot of chemistry, and now we're just trying to find it with Lucic. We did a lot of good stuff tonight and we have a lot to improve on."

Part of that is figuring out where to go when McDavid has the puck behind the net, a situation that created a couple near misses and a lot of open space against the Canucks.

"We seemed to find a way to create 'A' chances out of that," Eberle said. "[McDavid] is going to open up space, that's what everyone sees. If we can find a way to mingle and mesh that into a great line, there is a lot of potential."

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